College football is a game of adaptation. Each new coach has to find their own way to succeed, while still building on the foundation set by their predecessor. Some coaches have faced more challenges than others.
The michigan football coach is a new college football coach that has taken on the challenge of leading their team. They are faced with many challenges, some bigger than others.
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In college football, every new coach has difficulties ranging from negotiating a difficult league to completely overhauling the program. In the ever-changing sport, the barriers that new employees must overcome in their first season may seem insurmountable, but each position has its own set of challenges.
Between the conclusion of the 2020 season and the start of fall camp, 18 coaches have been hired throughout the nation, each with their own set of goals. Every fan base, from UL Monroe to Texas, has already determined what their expectations are for their next head football coach.
Let’s take a look at the most significant personal difficulty that new employees will face in their first seasons.
Bret Bielema, Illinois Fighting Illini New York Giants were the previous team (OLB coach, 2020) 97-58 in his career as a head coach (Wisconsin, Arkansas)
The most difficult task: bringing the Big Ten West success recipe to Illinois. Bielema understands the division better than anyone, having played at Iowa and coached Wisconsin to three league titles, and must have a clear recruitment and development strategy in Champaign. With a solid team of assistants, he’s off to a terrific start, and he’s reconnected with important high school programs throughout the state. Bielema understands that the key to success in an upgraded and consistent division is developing players and establishing a distinct identity. Illinois hasn’t had continuous success in a generation, and he’ll have to find a way to compete with schools like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern, who have a long history of success. Adam Rittenberg’s remark
Lance Leipold, Kansas Jayhawks Last team: Buffalo Bulls (head coach, 2015-2020) Record as a head coach: 146-39 (Wisconsin-Whitewater, Buffalo)
The greatest problem confronting Leipold is, well, all of them. Since 2009, the Jayhawks haven’t won more than three games in a season, and they’ve gone winless twice in that time, including last season when they went 0-9. He gets off to a late start, since he was recruited in late April, after Les Miles was forced to resign due to a controversy. Now that the Big 12’s existence is in question, Leipold must sell his vision and take on one of the most massive reclamation projects in recent memory. The reputation of Leipold as a constructor will be put to the test. Dave Wilson is an author.
Lance Leipold takes over a Kansas team that has only won 18 games in the last ten years. USA TODAY Sports’ Marvin Gentry
Steve Sarkisian, Texas Longhorns Alabama Crimson Tide was the previous team (offensive coordinator, 2019-2020) Coach’s career record as a head coach is 46-35. (Washington, USC)
The most difficult aspect of the job in Texas is that it is almost inexplicably a pressure cooker. The Longhorns have the resources, appeal, and recruiting base to compete with anybody, yet they’ve only won three Big 12 championships since its inception, one of which was an 8-5 season in John Mackovic’s first year. Sarkisian claims the team has the potential to win today, but Texas has never won a conference championship and hasn’t won one since 2009. Bijan Robinson, like Ricky Williams did for Mack Brown in his first year, may be a breakthrough star for him and help create some momentum, which Sarkisian will need. Wilson’s words
Jedd Fisch, Arizona Wildcats New England Patriots were the previous team (Quarterbacks coach, 2020) 1-1 in his career as a head coach (UCLA)
The most difficult task:
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch has an uphill climb to remain relevant in the Pac-12 after inheriting a squad that went winless during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Tucson has a history of being a tough location to win, and assembling talent on par with the conference’s best has never been simple. He immediately addressed the skill gap by slamming the transfer market, which was a crucial first step. Kyle Bonagura (Kyle Bonagura)
Bryan Harsin, Auburn Tigers Boise State Broncos were the previous team (head coach, 2014-2020) 76-24 in his career as a head coach (Arkansas State, Boise State)
Biggest challenge: Harsin never faltered after taking over for Chris Petersen at Boise State, winning 10 or more games in five of the Broncos’ six complete seasons. He now faces a similar challenge at Auburn, where a fierce rival in the same state has won five of the last ten national titles. Dealing with Alabama and Nick Saban’s shadow would be difficult for anybody, but Harsin has never coached or recruited in the SEC. He smartly stacked his coaching staff with experienced SEC coaches and plans to implement a new offensive scheme. What will be interesting to see is how much more consistency Harsin can eke out of junior quarterback Bo Nix, who may have a huge season ahead of him. Chris Low (c)
Shane Beamer, South Carolina Gamecocks Oklahoma Sooners (associate head coach/tight ends, 2018-2020) was his previous club. 0-0 in his career as a head coach.
Biggest challenge: There was a time when Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina program had a swagger, as he led the Gamecocks to unparalleled heights with three consecutive top-10 finishes from 2011 to 2013. The main reason was that during that period, South Carolina attracted some of the finest athletes in the state, and Beamer was instrumental in putting together some of those recruiting classes. Consider Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore, and Alshon Jeffery, to name a few. While Beamer will undoubtedly be learning on the job as a first-time head coach, he does have his Hall of Fame father, Frank Beamer, to lean on for guidance. — Low-cost
This season, Shane Beamer of South Carolina will take over as head coach for the first time in his career. Getty Images/David Purdy
Josh Heupel, Tennessee Volunteers UCF Knights were the previous team (head coach 2018-2020) Coach’s career record as a head coach is 28-8. (UCF)
The Vols have been 97th or worse in scoring offense each of the previous three seasons, so Heupel’s track record of putting up huge numbers on offense and playing at breakneck pace on that side of the ball is intriguing for Tennessee fans. Playing high tempo on offense is always a problem for the opposing defense, but when you’re forced to play a lot of defensive snaps, it may be difficult for your own defense. After losing some of its most skilled and productive players from a year ago, including a prized signee, Tennessee’s defense may struggle at first. The fact that the Vols were able to recruit several defensive transfers helps. The NCAA’s shadow hangs over Heupel’s program, and it’s unclear how severe the penalties will be after the inquiry is completed. — Low-cost
Clark Lea, Vanderbilt Commodores Last but not least, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (defensive coordinator, 2018-2020) 0-0 in his career as a head coach.
The most difficult challenge: Lea, a former Vanderbilt fullback, returns to his old school with his eyes wide open. The Commodores have gone 5-28 versus SEC opponents in the last four seasons (and were winless a year ago), so just staying competitive is the first of many challenges ahead. Lea has said that the program would be built from the ground up, which implies that the roster will be improved via recruitment and player development. Vanderbilt will never out-personnel SEC teams, particularly considering the university’s stringent admissions requirements. So, during the first few recruiting classes, Lea and his staff can’t afford to make many mistakes, and they’ll need to identify players who match their culture and are disciplined enough to accept tough coaching and get on the field early. — Low-cost
Butch Jones, Arkansas State Red Wolves Alabama Crimson Tide was the previous team (assistant to the head coach, 2018-2020) 84-54 in his career as a head coach (Central Michigan, Cincinnati, Tennessee)
The most difficult task is rehabilitation. Jones was dismissed following a 4-6 record in 2017 after five seasons as Tennessee’s head coach. Jones has served as an offensive analyst on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and as a special assistant to Saban for the 2020 season. Jones is now in his first head-coaching job since his stint at Alabama, which has functioned as a kind of image rehabilitation center for many college coaches. Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry Lyles Jr., Harry
Andy Avalos, Boise State Broncos Last team: Oregon Ducks (defensive coordinator/inside linebackers, 2019-2020) Head coaching career record: 0-0
The most difficult task is to maintain the anticipation as if it were their own. Avalos, 39, spent the last two seasons at Oregon, but coached at Boise State under his predecessor Bryan Harsin and played and coached under Chris Petersen, the school’s most famous coach. Aside from a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Broncos haven’t had a season with less than eight wins since 1998. As long as Avalos can keep the well-oiled machine in Boise operating, he’ll have fulfilled his obligations. Lyles –
Maurice Linguist, Buffalo Bulls Dallas Cowboys were the previous team (defensive backs coach) 0-0 in his career as a head coach.
The most difficult obstacle to overcome is a lack of precise time. Linguist, the coaching cycle’s last FBS appointment, comes over from Michigan, where he spent the summer as co-defensive coordinator after spending 2020 with the Dallas Cowboys. He joins a Buffalo team that has won two MAC East Division championships in the last three years. He was formerly an assistant with the Bulls. Unfortunately for Linguist, Leipold didn’t depart the team until after spring, and since Linguist was an outside hire, a lot of players came in with a whole new coaching staff. There will be a total of ten returning starters, and the Bulls will be using new systems. However, if Linguist has a good year, he may be able to continue the success that Leipold had in his final few years in the program. Lyles –
UL Terry Bowden, Monroe Warhawks Clemson Tigers were the previous team (graduate assistant, 2019-2020) 175-114-2 throughout his career as a head coach (Salem, Samford, Auburn, North Alabama, Akron)
The most difficult task is to win. Bowden joins the Warhawks after two seasons as a graduate assistant at Clemson, where he was working toward a master’s degree. He takes over for Matt Viator, who was 0-10 in 2020 and had a 19-39 record in Monroe. Bowden has a high standard as he begins his first head-coaching job since being dismissed after seven years at Akron in 2018. Monroe isn’t going to be easy, but the Warhawks just have to wait until 2020 to get him. Lyles –
Charles Huff, Marshall Thundering Herd Alabama Crimson Tide (assistant head coach/running backs, 2019-2020) was his previous team. 0-0 in his career as a head coach.
The biggest question is whether he can take Marshall to the next level. Huff takes over for long-time coach Doc Holliday at Marshall. Huff, 37, is set to begin his first head coaching job, but he already has excellent credentials, including a reputation as a terrific recruiter and experience developing Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Alabama’s Najee Harris. The Herd return 15 starters, so although they aren’t favorites to win Conference USA, it won’t be long until Huff’s squad is able to capitalize on what Holliday left behind. Lyles –
This season, Charles Huff is one of many coaches from Nick Saban’s coaching tree that will take over a program. Getty Images/Icon Sportswire/Rich von Biberstein
Tim Albin, Ohio Bobcats Last job: Assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/running backs, Ohio Bobcats (2019-2020). Coach’s career record as a head coach is 25-8. (Northwestern Oklahoma State)
The fact that there are expectations is the greatest difficulty. Before Frank Solich’s arrival in 2005, Ohio had a history of struggling to maintain any degree of success, but the Bobcats won four division championships in Solich’s 16 years as head coach and ended with a record of. 12 years in a row with a score of 500 or higher. Albin was in Athens throughout the whole of Solich’s term, so he knows exactly what has and hasn’t worked over the years. Any move backwards, on the other hand, will be noticed and frowned upon. He has to get up and running right away. Bill Connelly’s quote
Kane Wommack, South Alabama Jaguars Indiana Hoosiers (defensive coordinator/linebackers, 2019-2020) was his previous team. 0-0 in his career as a head coach.
The most difficult task: establishing a lasting identity. Joey Jones was a tough defensive coach who kept the Jags in the game, but they never got beyond six victories. Steve Campbell had a long list of offensive accomplishments on his resume, but he was never able to put together a consistent attack. USA has signed another defensive player in Wommack, but in a program with no track record of success, any identity that wins will suffice. Will Wommack be able to tap into the potential that no one else has? — Sean Connelly
Will Hall, Will Hall, Will Hall, Will Hall, Will Hall, Will Hall, Will Hall, Will Hall Tulane Green Wave was the previous team (offensive coordinator, 2019-2020) Coach’s career record as a head coach is 56-20. (West Alabama, West Georgia)
The most difficult task is to provide stability. The Golden Eagles are coming off their worst season since 2014, with players dealing with three coaching changes in less than three months. After one game, temporary No. 1 Jay Hopson was released. Scotty Walden, the temporary No. 2 player, departed after four minutes. Tim Billings finished the season, and Hall was brought in thereafter. A year like this has the potential to destroy culture. The Golden Eagles have speed, a flood of transfers, and a few of important 2019 players returning, but early success will rely on Hall providing the calm hand that was missing last season. — Sean Connelly
Gus Malzahn, Gus Malzahn, Gus Malzahn, Gus Malzahn, Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers were the previous team (head coach, 2013-2020) 77-38 in his career as a head coach (Arkansas State, Auburn)
The most difficult task: Winning in a particular manner. UCF developed a strong brand around speed and tempo under Scott Frost, and when he departed for Nebraska, the school pushed the pedal to the metal by hiring up-tempo Josh Heupel, who went 28-8 in three seasons. Malzahn has a long list of tempo-friendly accomplishments on his resume, but his identity has progressively faded throughout his tenure at Auburn. In terms of speed and play-calling habits, his 2020 offense was mediocre. Arriving to UCF provides him with the opportunity to reclaim the entertaining football he was once known for, but Knights supporters want him to be fun, quick, and excellent right away. — Sean Connelly
Blake Anderson, Utah State Aggies Arkansas State Red Wolves were the previous team (head coach, 2014-2020) 51-37 in his career as a head coach (Arkansas State)
The most difficult task: re-establishing my identity. The average home attendance at Maverik Stadium was 21,331 in 2013, the year after Gary Andersen guided USU to one of its best seasons. The Aggies finished 18-8 in 2018-19, although attendance had dropped by approximately 10%. Then, in a dreadful 2020 campaign, the bottom fell out. Anderson established himself as a capable head coach at Arkansas State, but he’s relying heavily on the transfer portal to resurrect the roster, and he’ll need to put on a show to rekindle enthusiasm and support. — Sean Connelly
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